The Study of Philosophy | Albright College


How do leaders answer the most difficult questions?

The goals of study in philosophy are to give students insight into the traditional problems of philosophy and some of the main historical answers to them; to make students critically conscious of their own values and presuppositions relating to these problems, as well as the assumptions of other special fields of learning; and to encourage students to formulate an integrated knowledge of the self and its place in the world.


Nicholas J. Wernicki, Ph.D
Dean, School of Professional Studies & Associate Professor of Philosophy


Yuval Abrams, LL.M., Ph.D.
Visiting NEH Chair in Humanities & Assistant Professor Philosophy


Lisa Bellantoni, Ph.D.
Department Chair; Associate Professor in Philosophy

Major in Philosophy


Twelve courses are required for a full major in philosophy. These include a minimum of nine courses in philosophy: Critical Thinking (150); either seven core courses with two courses in each of three of the areas and one from the fourth area OR six core courses with two in two areas, one in each of the other two areas and a Senior Thesis (481); and a Seminar (391 or 491).  Three additional elective courses are also required, which may be chosen from the core courses, independent study, and/or with departmental approval, from a related area outside the Philosophy Department. The core courses are to be chosen from the following:

– History of Philosophy. Select from the history of philosophy sequence: PHI 210/310, 211/311, 214, 216/316, 314, 315

– Reality and Knowledge. Select from courses dealing with what exists in the world and the nature of what exists (metaphysics), and what we can know about what there is (epistemology), as well as other modes of thinking and knowing (such as scientific and religious): PHI 120, 140, 220, 245, 280, 326.

– Value Theory. Select from courses dealing with human values and the application of value to various social, moral and political issues: PHI 203, 204, 206, 250, 260/360, 270/370, 314, 315.

– Difference and Diversity. Select from courses dealing with perspectives about different formations of identities (such as class, race and gender) and the diversity within them, and about various philosophical, cultural and historical traditions: PHI 130, 135, 228, 257.

Note: Special Topics courses (183, 283, 383) may count for a designated core requirement.

No single course may be used to satisfy more than one core requirement. Total courses required: 12 (nine to 12 in philosophy with up to three in a related field.) No course used for the major may be applied to the General Studies requirement.

Combined Major in Philosophy


Combined philosophy majors will take a total of seven required philosophy courses, including one course from each of the four core areas; Critical Thinking (150); a Seminar (391 or 491); and one additional core course or a Thesis (481). A Thesis can count as one of the core courses.  No course may be used to fulfill more than one core requirement. One philosophy courses may be counted for both the combined major in philosophy and as a General Studies Foundations.

PHI 101
This course introduces central historical and contemporary debates in philosophy, including the nature of persons, self-identity, and free will, the foundations of knowledge, and the basis of moral and aesthetic judgments. Why are you who you are? How do you know what you know? Are you living a good life? Find out. General Studies Foundations-Humanities.

PHI 102
Philosophy and Fiction
This course is an introduction to philosophical problems through an examination of works of fiction. The types of fiction chosen may include science fiction, existentialism or other genres. Questions covered may include the nature of the mind and self, the possibility of free will, the sources and reliability of knowledge, artificial intelligence, and moral problems. Films will supplement readings. Does not count towards philosophy concentration.

PHI 120
Truth and Beauty
What makes you who you are? How did you choose the goals you are currently pursuing? What do you most value, and why are those things so important to you? Throughout this course, we will try to develop your answers to these three questions. Along the way, we will evaluate both historically significant and contemporary responses to these issues. Our primary goal, though, is to develop your own critical, constructive and creative answers to these questions.  General Studies Foundations-Humanities

PHI 130
Individual and Society
The course investigates certain historical, social, and ethical dimensions of what is called “social philosophy.” We start with some historical explorations of the emergence and/or the relevance of the “individual” in ancient Greece, ancient China and classical Islam. Afterward, the class will approach different theories dealing with the question of the “individual versus society,” giving particular attention to social contract theories, libertarianism, anarchism and socialism. The course concludes with the study of some contributions of Friedrich Nietzsche and of Cornelius Castoriadis to the various political and ethical issues raised throughout the semester. General Studies Foundations-Humanities

PHI 135
Race, Class and Gender
This course introduces students to questions of self, self-consciousness and identity, and addresses philosophy as a way of living and relating to the world. A special focus is accorded to how humans in communities relate to “others” and how social, cultural or political categories associated with “race,” “class” and” gender” have developed historically and how they may still function today. A closer look at the relation between race and ethnicity, between class and status, and between gender and sexuality allows the class to assess and distinguish “domination” functioning within asymmetries of power and “difference” functioning within negotiable and heterogeneous social and political spaces.  General Studies Connections Humanities

PHI 140
Human Nature
This course examines the diverse views of human nature developed by philosophers as well as by biologists and psychologists. Course topics include free will, minds, bodies and souls, psychological egoism, the state of nature, animal personhood and artificial intelligence. Readings include selections from philosophers and scientists such as Aristotle, Descartes, Darwin, Freud, Hobbes, Rousseau, Marx, Nietzsche, Sartre, Skinner and Wilson. General Studies Foundations-Humanities

PHI 150
Critical Thinking
This course is a study of arguments and rules for correct thinking. Topics include recognition of arguments, uses of language, fallacious arguments and the art of persuasion. Emphasis is on the application of critical thinking skills in both professional and everyday contexts. General Studies Foundations-Humanities

PHI 152
Religions of India, China and Japan
A study of the major living religions and spiritual practices of India, China and Japan. The emphasis is on the origins and development of such traditions as Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Confucianism and Taoism. The impact that these traditions have had upon culture and how they have dealt with issues of spiritual meaning and formation is emphasized.  General Studies Foundations-Humanities

PHI 175
Philosophy and Film
This course focuses on the study of how the medium of film, and other media involving image and sound, reflect, express, and/or (re)present philosophical questions creatively, and how they provide innovative forms of engaging in philosophical theory and practice. The aim of the class is to deal with metaphysical, ethical, and political issues through analyses of films and related readings, and to arrive at some kind of philosophical understanding of films and the role that images and representations play in our daily lives. The class will view films and read texts and articles dealing with reality, truth, representation, self, identity, society, power and politics, among other themes and topics. General Studies Foundations-Humanities

PHI 203
This is a study of the nature, origin, and development of ethical theories from a historical perspective and their relevance to some significant problems in contemporary life. Special attention is given to the exploration of enduring moral concerns, such as moral relativism, the place of reason in ethics, egoism and altruism, and the nature of moral responsibility. General Studies Foundations-Humanities

PHI 204
Public Morality
This course examines current moral and political controversies. We will explore questions of social and economic justice, moral and political equality, and social action and individual rights. In examining these debates, we will draw upon both historically influential and contemporary moral and political theories. GENERAL STUDIES CONNECTIONS-HUMANITIESp>

PHI 206
Philosophy of Sex, Love and Friendship
This course seeks to help students become familiar with the conceptual frameworks and ethical theories that philosophers and others have used in coming to understand the philosophical significance of family, friendship, gender and sexuality. The course emphasizes critical reasoning and analysis, with the goal of developing students’ ability to distinguish well-supported from poorly supported arguments in each of the course areas. As the most intimate aspects of our lives are explored, students should begin to understand the complexity of our intimate lives and the need for a careful, rigorous and sensitive approach to the study of these areas.   General Studies Connections Humanities

PHI 210
Classical Philosophy
This is a historical introduction to earliest Western philosophy, such as the pre-Socratic nature philosophers, the thought of Parmenides, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the medieval philosophers, Augustine, Aquinas, Al-Farabi and Maimonides. Reading and discussion of primary sources. Offered in alternate years.  General Studies Foundations-Humanities

PHI 211
Modern Philosophy
This course will cover basic philosophical texts of 17th and 18th century Europe, with a special emphasis on Continental Rationalism, British Empiricism, and German Idealism.  We will study selected texts from the major contributions of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Berkeley, Locke, Hume, Kant, Schelling, Schopenhauere and/or Hegel. After an overview of the history of Western Philosophy until the 17th century, the class will focus on reading, discussing and writing on the selected texts. The course will conclude with an assessment of the relevance of Rationalism, Empiricism, and Idealism to subsequent philosophers.  General Studies Foundations-Humanities

PHI 214
Roman Philosophy: Between Duty and Pleasure
This Foundation-Humanities course will introduce Roman Philosophy as it developed from Republican times to the rise and fall of the Empire. Students will read primary philosophical texts while studying their settings and their historical, social, cultural, and technological contexts. A special attention will be accorded to Stoic philosophy (and to its cosmological perspective) as well as to Epicurean philosophy (and to its materialist perspective) that inspired the major humanistic endeavors of the first millennium of our common era. The course will analyze the underlying ethical life for the Epicureans (building on the construction of happiness in relation to pleasure, friendship and communal relationships, and thought) as well as for the Stoics (Duty, independence and self-sufficiency, order and rationality, and wisdom). The course will conclude with an attempt to analyze our own times/ways of living by transposing analyses applied to Roman times/ways of living.   General Studies Foundations-Humanities

PHI 216
Contemporary Philosophy
The course aims to inquire about some of the fundamental characteristics of the human experience through the reading of philosophical texts from the late 19th century to the present. The course will offer students an opportunity to explore some of the following questions: Is it possible to live an authentic life? Is it possible to reconcile religion, science, and reason? Can art and literature inform about what is moral? What is empathy and is it possible to actually know another person? Is life meaningful? What do we mean when we talk about consciousness? The course explores readings from philosophy, theology, literature, theater, and psychology. Major figures may include: Soren Kierkegaard, Albert Camus, Martha Nussbaum, Jean-Paul Sartre, Hannah Arendt, Paul Tillich, Karl Jaspers, Heinz Kohut and others.
General Studies Foundations-Humanities

PHI 220
Philosophy of Religion
This course considers traditional defenses and arguments for God which claim to provide a rational basis for faith. Other topics include God’s nature and attributes, the problem of evil, the religious experience, freedom and divine omniscience, and miracles. Cross-listed with REL 220.

PHI 228
Feminism and Philosophy
This course examines theoretical, ethical and practical issues in feminist thought, with a focus on the relationships between the sexes in contexts such as sexuality and love, prostitution, pornography, raising children, the workplace, the female body and reproductive technology. Some attention is given to the differences in approach in feminist philosophies and traditional philosophical methods.

PHI 230
Law and Philosophy
In this course, we will consider several philosophical issues that arise with respect to law. We will begin by surveying some of the prominent theoretical approaches to understanding the nature of law and legal interpretation. We will examine the relationship between law and morality, the nature and limits of some of our fundamental Constitutional rights and freedoms, and the concepts of equality and justice as reflected in the law. We will then explore the justifications for the laws of our criminal justice system and conclude by addressing a few issues of civil law. In our study, we will often utilize notable legal cases as a vehicle for discovering how certain lawmakers, namely judges, have reasoned about the law. Several recent or current legal controversies will be incorporated into our class discussions. GENERAL STUDIES CONNECTIONS-HUMANITIES

PHI 245
Philosophy and History of Science
This course examines the history of conceptions of nature expressed by philosophers and scientists from antiquity to the 20th century. It begins with the construction of Aristotle’s theoretical framework and its final overthrow by Newton during scientific revolution. It then examines how Newton’s framework was modified and challenged by the development of modern ideas of nature, including those of evolution, relativity and quantum physics.  It may also include consideration of the relationship between science and other disciplines, such as religion and art.

PHI 250
Business Ethics
This course gives students a concise background in ethical reasoning and ethical theories and applies these theories to contemporary business practices. What is the relationship between the profitable and the ethical, between markets and morals? We will address this question by looking at current issues such as the moral bases of free markets and free societies, the impact of automation and digital technologies on workplaces, the social impact of advertising, and the environmental impact of our economic activity. GENERAL STUDIES CONNECTIONS-HUMANITIES b>

PHI 256
The Buddha and His Teachings
This course traces the life of the historical Buddha and how his teachings evolved in India over the centuries following his death. It will trace the historical and philosophical development of the traditional three vehicles of Buddhism:  the vehicle of the discipline, the greater vehicle of enlightenment beings, and the tantric vehicle of supernatural beings. Cross-listed with REL 256. General Studies Foundations-Humanities

PHI 257
Buddhism Across Cultures
This course covers the history of Buddhist thought and practice as it evolved in India and then migrated to Southeast Asia, China, Tibet, Korea, Japan, and most recently to Europe and the United States. It begins with the historical Buddha’s life, his teachings and the competing schools of thought that dominated Northeastern India during his time. It continues through the study of Indian Buddhism after the Buddha’s death, including the early Buddhist schools, the development of the Mahayana, the great philosophers Nagarjuna and Vasubandu, and the emergence of Tantric forms of Buddhism. From the foundations of Indian Buddhism, students examine how the religion was interpreted and expressed in its many cultural forms, such as Thervavada, Dzogchen, Zen, T’ien Tai and Pureland. Cross-listed with REL 257. General Studies Connections Humanities-Global

PHI 260
This course examines the life and death issues of biomedicine. It emphasizes critical reasoning, and aims to enhance students’ ability to form well-supported ethical positions. The course examines contemporary issues such as the purposes of therapeutic medicine and the prospects for human enhancement, the use of genetic information, medical research ethics, disability rights, end of life care and assisted suicide, and the distribution of medical costs and resources. GENERAL STUDIES CONNECTIONS-HUMANITIES

PHI 270
Environmental Ethics
Contemporary environmental challenges – including resource use, food production, population growth, species extinctions, rising sea levels, ocean pollution and modern energy demands – all raise important questions about how we should live in relation to our natural surroundings. What obligations do we have concerning the environment? What justifications can we give for the protection of wildlife, land and water? Does nature have value apart from human needs? What do we owe future human beings? Are some parts of nature more valuable than others? This course examines various responses to these and other questions about our place in nature and our proper role, if any, in preserving it. GENERAL STUDIES CONNECTIONS-HUMANITIES

PHI 280
Philosophy of Self
This course investigates philosophical theories of self, consciousness, and subjectivity textually and historically. The aim of the class is to introduce students to different philosophical questions associated with “consciousness” and to their development, across time and space, in relation to notions of self, individuality and subjectivity. Readings may include the views of the self in The Epic of Gilgamesh,  modern philosophers from Descartes to Kant, Nietzsche, Freud and contemporary philosophers. The class concludes with a reading in political economy that practically addresses issues related to theories of self.

PHI 296
Yoga: Philosophy and Practice
This course offers an exploration of both the philosophy and practical application of yoga, one of the major systems of thought underlying the Hindu religion. Included is a study of the early Hindu investigation of ritual and freedom, the instruction of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, the royal yoga of Patanjali, and the Tantric systems of body-mind transformation. There will also be the opportunity to experience the actual practice of these disciplines with classes throughout the semester dedicated to meditation and Hatha yoga.  General Studies Connections-Global-Humanities

PHI 310
Classical Philosophy
A historical introduction to the beginning of Western philosophy: the pre-Socratic nature philosophers, the thought of Parmenides, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and the medieval theologians, Augustine and Aquinas. Reading and discussion of primary sources. The course will meet with PHI210 but will require higher level written work appropriate for a Philosophy concentrator.

PHI 311
Modern Philosophy
This course will cover basic philosophical texts of 17th and 18th century Europe, with a special emphasis on Continental Rationalism, British Empiricism, and German Idealism.  We will study selected texts from the major contributions of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Berkeley, Locke, Hume, Kant, Schelling, Schopenhauere and/or Hegel. After an overview of the history of Western Philosophy until the 17th century, the class will focus on reading, discussing and writing on the selected texts. The course will conclude with an assessment of the relevance of Rationalism, Empiricism, and Idealism to subsequent philosophers. The course will meet with PHI211 but will require higher level written work appropriate for a Philosophy concentrator.

PHI 314
Classical Political Theory
This course examines the origins of political society and the evolution of political concepts such as legitimate authority, liberty, justice, divine right, civil society and the rule of law. We will trace the development of these ideas from antiquity through the early modern era, seeking to examine how they inform contemporary political ideals. GENERAL STUDIES CONNECTIONS-GLOBAL-HUMANITIES

PHI 315
Political Theory
This course examines the modern political concepts that have molded our contemporary political climate, including our ideas of justice, equality, individual rights and liberties, economic entitlements, and the foundations of civil society. GENERAL STUDIES CONNECTIONS-HUMANITIES

PHI 316
Contemporary Philosophy
A study of some of the main currents of philosophical thought in this century. Representative figures from the analytic movement in England and America (Russell, Moore, Witgenstein); American Pragmatism (Peirce, James, Dewey); and the European tradition of phenomenology and existentialism (Heidegger, Merleau-Pontry, Sartre, Foucault). Course content will vary from year to year focusing on one or more particular movements in this period. May be repeated with a new topic. The course will meet with PHI216 but will require higher level written work appropriate for a Philosophy concentrator.

PHI 323
Science, Pseudoscience, and Knowledge
Scientific knowledge is one of civilization’s greatest accomplishments. When conducted properly, scientific inquiry attains objective, public knowledge of the world and the power to control nature in incredible ways. It is of great importance, therefore, that we understand just what it means for a claim or a subject to be scientific. To this end, the course begins with a general introduction to the history and philosophy of science and a closer look at the ingredients that comprise the scientific method: testability, falsification, explanation, confirmation, laws, causality, etc., as well as the interrelation between them. We will compare clear-cut cases of science with textbook cases of pseudoscience (astrology, UFO’s, etc.) asking how and in what way they differ, clarifying what the scientific method is. This is followed by a survey of the scientific method across other disciplines. We will look more closely at the methods employed in the physical, biological, and social sciences, and at some representative methodological controversies, including topics such as: foundational physics, the interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, evolutionary explanation, emergence, behaviorism, modularity of the mind, evolutionary psychology, and behavioral economics. We will look also to disciplines that are typically classified as non-scientific, in particular the arts, humanities, and religion, asking to what extent they resemble and, to what extent they differ from, science. We will also explore critical views of science and the question of the place of values in science and the desirability of value-free inquiry. Throughout the course, we will ask what makes an inquiry or a discipline scientific, what distinguishes science from pseudo-science, whether scientific knowledge is the best or only approach to answering a question, and whether there is a unified scientific method. Students will be called upon to reflect on their own majors and bring what we discuss in the class to bear on them, asking themselves: What is scientific about my field of study? What parts of my field are not? Is this a virtue or a vice?

PHI 326
Constructing Reality
The course will trace modes of constructing reality from Ancient, to Modern, and to Contemporary, times. At each historical intersection, we will analyze how “reality” is constructed (imagined, constituted, and instituted) via social and cultural meanings, values, and affects along with associated teleological and eschatological constructs. With modern forms of constructing reality, epistemological theories start supplementing anthropological and evolutionary approaches, before contemporary (postmodern) modes of constructing reality start relying on ontological structures and on trans-individual relations—using constantly changing but inter-connected environmental, biological, neuro-chemical, psychological, linguistic and sociological axiomatic assumptions among others.

PHI 331
In 1879, an antisemite named Wilhelm Marr coined the term “antisemitism,” thereby differentiating the modern hatred of Jews based in political and racial concepts from earlier forms of antijudaism rooted in ancient and contemporary religions. Often identified as the world’s longest documented hatred, antisemitism continues to permeate social, religious, cultural and political rhetoric. This course will endeavor to chart, through a series of chronological and typological case studies the evolution of antisemitism from early tensions within the young Christian communities to Holocaust denial, including tensions in the United States and in the Muslim world.

PHI 360
Biomedical Ethics
Biomedical ethics seeks to help students become familiar with the ethical theories that philosophers, physicians, biomedical researchers, and other thinking people have used in coming to understand themselves and their world. Students have the opportunity to apply these theories to some of the most important moral problems in medicine and the biomedical sciences. The course emphasizes critical reasoning and analysis, with the goal of developing students’ ability to distinguish well-supported from poorly supported positions. As the life and death issues of biomedicine are explored, students should begin to understand the complexity of our moral problems and the need for a careful, rigorous, and sensitive approach to these problems. The course will meet with PHI260 but will require higher level written work appropriate for a Philosophy major.

PHI 370
Environmental Ethics
Human activities have changed conditions on earth on a massive scale and threaten to cause the greatest mass extinctions since the end of the dinosaur age. The world population continues to grow, resulting in the degradation of air, water and land and the depletion of natural resources. Yet people need to be fed and sheltered and our demand for energy continues to grow. Such environmental problems raise important questions on how we should live. What obligations do we have concerning the environment? What justifications can we give for the protection of wildlife, land and water? Does nature have value apart from human needs? What do we owe future human beings? Are some parts of nature more valuable than others? This course will examine and assess critically various responses to these and other questions. The course will meet with PHI270 but will require higher level written work appropriate for a Philosophy major.

PHI 391
Seminar in Philosophy I
This is an in-depth study of some great philosopher, historical movement, or period in philosophy, such as Plato, Marx, Wittgenstein, medieval philosophy, Darwin’s century or linguistic philosophy. May be repeated, with a new topic. Fulfills philosophy seminar requirement.
Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or permission of the instructor

PHI 481
Advanced Research-Thesis
Students partake in an independent research project directed by a faculty member resulting in a substantial thesis (25-30 pages), which may be a reworking and deepening of a paper written for a seminar or as part of an independent study.

PHI 491
Seminar in Philosophy II
This is an in-depth study of some philosophical theme or topic such as morality and the law, theories of perception, science and religion. The seminar is aimed at giving concentrators and other qualified students a greater opportunity for an interchange of ideas and individual research. May be repeated, with a new topic.
Prerequisite: One course in philosophy or permission of the instructor

What Can I do With a Major in Philosophy?

APA Statement on the Philosophy Major

Departmental Awards

Douglas Woolson Memorial Philosophy Award
Gary Kennis ’96 Memorial Award in Philosophy
Ellery B. Haskell Memorial Award

Albright Philosophy Alumni: Where Are They Now?

Graduate Programs in Philosophy

The following is a partial listing of philosophy graduate programs pursued by Albright College graduates over the past few years. For more information, please contact the Philosophy Department at 610. 921.7716 or the Experiential Learning and Career Development Center at 610. 921.7630,

Michigan State University, Ph.D. in Philosophy, East Lansing, MI
University of Illinois, Ph.D. in Philosophy, Urbana-Champaign, IL
University of Ottawa, Ph.D. in Philosophy, Ottawa, Canada
University of Pennsylvania, Master of Bioethics, Philadelphia, PA
University of Toledo, Master of Arts in Philosophy, Toledo, OH

Student Research

Student Philosophical Research by concentrators and co-concentrators

  1. Albright College Research Experience award: Christopher Siers, Summer 2006, ACRE
  2. Albright College Research Experience award: Elizabeth Leo, Summer 2006, ACRE
  3. Undergraduate Conference Paper Presentation: Christopher Siers, philosophy paper presentation, Goucher College, April 8, 2007
  4. Undergraduate Conference Attendance: Tanya Dworjan (Philosophy or only English?), Jeremy Gilliam, and Elizabeth Leo, undergraduate philosophy conference, Goucher College, April 8, 2007
  5. Philosophy Forum paper presentations: May 1, 2007, Albright CollegeJeremy Gilliam “On Camus and Existentialism”
    Tania Dworjan “On Sartre and Existentialism”
    Kerianne Kuliga “Existentialism in The Fight Club
    Elizabeth Leo “Re-reading Hume’s Imagination after Post-Modernism”
    Anthony Ward “Foucault and Scott: Experience and the Subject”
    Chris Siers “On Deleuze, Multiplicity, and Life”

Theses by Philosophy concentrators/ co-concentrators

  1. David Wand (2005) senior thesis: “Punk Rock and The Philosophy of Singularity” (32 pages)
  2. Robert Carroll (2005) senior thesis: “The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God: Criticism from Kant and Hegel” (36 pages)
  3. Charles Henry senior seminar thesis (2005): “A Treatise on Knowledge and Power” (30 pages)
  4. Christopher Siers senior seminar thesis (2005): “Where to go from here…: ‘The Death of Man,’ Difference, and Unity” (28 pages)
  5. Joe Friend (co-concentrator) senior seminar thesis (2005): “The Ailing Civilization of Dreams” (35 pages)
  6. Brent Mittlestadt (2007) senior/honors thesis: “Life Views of Albright College Students” (76 pages)
  7. Christopher Siers senior thesis (currently, 2007 expected)